Aftershock Q&A with Sarah Wayne Callies

This weeks Q&A review is sponsored by good old Lady Luck! Or if you are a bit of a show off and enjoy being snazzy you could use her full title, Fortuna the Goddess of Fortune! Jokes aside, like finding a crisp twenty pound note on the pavement lady luck briefly smiled down on Tea in the Sahara towers, and I for one am thrilled to share my EXCLUSIVE Aftershock Q&A with you guys!

A quick recap, a few weeks back I reviewed the awesome Aftershock and was presented with the opportunity to put forward some questions to the wonderful people down at iHeartRadio. They then presented said questions to writer, creator, and director Sarah Wayne Callies to comment on.

I was even cheeky enough to put a few questions directly to iHeartRadio, and the talented chap behind the podcasts sound design Jeff Schmidt for comments. Well, in for a penny and all that; or to continue the Latin luck theme – when in Rome, do as the Romans do!

So I pulled together my questions, fired them over (fingers crossed), and waited for a response. Cut to the real world where I reside, and in all honesty never in a million years did I think that I would receive anything back. You see us Brits are not the most ‘luckiest’ nation when it comes to well, luck.

Fast forward a few days, and as if by magic I received a response email from iHeartMedia with all of my questions answered! Guys to put this into context for you, it felt like I had received a telegram from the Queen inviting me & the wife over for afternoon tea, and afterwards a cheeky game of croquet!

Reality check, it is worth noting that this did not all just happen by pure chance. There was some super kind intervention by Imran, over at Great Pods who kindly connected me with the people at iHeartRadio. If you eat, sleep, podcast, repeat, like me then head over to Great Pods where you will find indie podcast reviews on every type of podcast genre possible. Trust me you will not regret it!

I would also like to give a shout out to the wonderful Jenn Powers & Alison Hemmings from iHeartMedia for making this all happen. Thank you ladies for being so kind & professional with every silly detail I had.

Finally a massive thank you goes out to the talented Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeff Schmidt, and Noel Brown, Podcast Lead Executive Producer for iHeartMedia for answering these questions. Thank you all for taking some time out of your busy schedules for me. Your creativity, and generosity is the reason why I continue to write about podcasting.

So as you can see folks this weeks reviewing format is very different, but you know what they say, change is as good as a holiday!

We open the Q&A with questions put to Sarah Wayne Callies:

Is this your first first podcast? What influenced you to get into podcasting?

Yes, it’s my first podcast – as a creator.  I’ve been a fan of pods for years and watching the emergence of scripted shows made me keen to create my own. There are many reasons for that, but certainly, right now, we’ve all got a fair amount of screen fatigue. Telling an immersive story where the audience can go on a ride while resting their eyes – that sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?  

Do you have plans to work on any other future podcasts? As a creative type I am sure that you have plenty of ideas!

I’ve got a slate of ideas I’m developing, both on the scripted and non-scripted sides. One of the great joys of my career is having worked with some really brilliant thinkers and performers.  I’m excited to bring some of those folks into the pod world to play together.  

When writing the series did you already have in mind who she wanted cast within the lead roles for the podcast? What influenced your decisions? 

I had a lot of the casting already in my mind, for sure. David and Jeffrey both have such distinctive voices that have a really fascinating balance of power and restraint. They were in my head from the beginning, especially as a pairing. And then sometimes I’d be talking with a friend and hear them a certain way, and I’d think OH! I have to beg you to be in this with me! Austin was like that – we were chatting about something, and I realized he’d be brilliant for Sean. 

Are you planning to record a second series of Aftershock? If yes, are you able to advise/give any hints on the timeline for this?

I’ve got ideas for a season two.  I’m not sure how podcasting works, getting ‘picked up for more seasons… I’m kind of learning as I go. But I have known from the beginning how the story ends, and I’d love a chance to get all the way there.  

How long did it take to produce Aftershock?

Forever. Thanks to the pandemic. But it was something creative to work on while all the sets were shut down, and that was such a gift. It made it a lot harder, production-wise, because we couldn’t use sound booths. But it did make scheduling easier – none of the actors had conflicts because no one could shoot during that peak Covid time when we were recording in our homes.  

If you had to detail both your highest, and most challenging moments throughout the whole journey, from writing through to production what would these be?

Learning to write for audio was certainly a new skill set for me. Balancing voices, making sure there weren’t too many people in a scene to follow, realizing there’s no such thing as an audio close-up…. it taught me a new way of telling stories. As for a high – the first full mix I heard of the first episode was a thrill. Our audio engineer, Jeff Schmidt, is a genius.  I had no idea how he would make the earthquake real, the aftershocks, the tidal waves. It seemed impossible. But Jeff’s a genius, and he brought it all to life. That was pure joy to hear.

Questions put to Jeff Schmidt, sound design on Aftershock:

I really enjoyed the immersive sound design created within Aftershock, and acknowledged Jeff Schmidt as a fifth Beatle!
Would it please be possible to understand in a few simple words how he created the incredible soundscape within this podcast, as I would love to be able to share this with my followers. 

In Film & TV, the primary role of sound is to support the image. In audio stories, sound IS the image, so it’s been helpful for me to think about sound in Audio stories more like Cinematography, which is more upfront than “Sound Design,” which is traditionally more supportive. I design the soundscape to be as rich and stylized as the story warrants and then push it a bit more. Like saturation and light with camera exposure, I want the world to pop and feel alive with detail as if it were a character itself.

I want the characters to be tightly glued into this world to avoid sounding like actors in close-ups with sound effects as background. So all the character movement and interactions within the world need to be present and as detailed as possible. I also experiment with mimicking camera techniques like the “Push Zoom” (as in Lawrence’s death scene and Cassie meets Wayne in the RedCross Shelter scene from Episode 1).

And to close we have a response from Noel Brown, Podcast Lead Executive Producer for iHeartMedia:

Within my review I quoted how the show raised awareness of climate change. Apart from that, and fantastic writing, what was it that iHeartRadio saw within this podcast series?

“Aftershock” has the rare distinction of being both an incredibly immersive action series and a poignant and thoughtful story of women’s empowerment. We knew this show would resonate with podcast audiences from the moment we first heard the pilot. Sarah and her team have truly created something special.

Well there you have it folks my first exclusive Aftershock scoop neatly wrapped up for you. I really hope that you enjoyed this snippet into the making of this amazing podcast?
I also hope that through my writing you can visualise the effort & collaboration that went into making this review a success. Again, a shout out to Imran for connecting the dots, and opening the door for me (cheers fella!)

As you can see my writing style is more cult classic, than best seller. I take inspiration from everything that lifes rich tapestry has to offer, and try to creatively weave this into my writing. So if you are looking for a review as edgy as the next Radiohead album, you are in luck.

Are you are a writer, creator, or production company looking to have your podcast reviewed? Perhaps you like this Q&A format, and are looking for your own review? If that is the case, then maybe (just maybe) I am the Independent Podcast Critic Writer you have been looking for. Please get in touch via my contacts page, or email me directly tinthesaharah@gmail.com.

‘Aftershock’ can be found on Apple Podcasts & Spotify or from wherever you get your podcasts from.

For further Tea in the Sahara reviews please check out my other podcast & audio-book reviews. Until the next time podcast people, cheers Kev.

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